US$1m grant splits MDC-T, infighting reaches crescendo
DIVISIONS are rocking the Douglas Mwonzora-led MDC-T over a US$1 million government grant that insiders say was abused by party officials.
BRENNA MATENDERE/ RUVIMBO MUCHENJE
Rifts are widening as top officials are fighting publicly in the media and differing on policy issues. The abuse of the grant, according to insiders, is the reason why the party has failed to fund crucial political activities, notably the convening of an elective congress which has been postponed since July.
The party has also failed to pay 26 March by-election agents and staff at Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House (formerly Harvest House) and has also failed to foot the expenses of the by-election candidates.
The party has no money to fully settle bills at its headquarters. Sources told The NewsHawks that at one of the national executive meetings of the party, senior officials demanded an audit of the grant released by the government in RTGS to the MDC-T in February this year which amounted to an equivalent of about US$800 000 using the parallel market rate of that time and US$1 million as per the official interbank market rate.
In local currency, it was ZW$149 850 000, according to General Notice 125A of 2022 published in the Government Gazette.
The law states that only a political party that has secured at least 5% of the total votes cast can benefit from the national budget.
In one of Zimbabwe’s biggest political scandals of recent years, the opposition grant has been going to Mwonzora’s party instead of the party led by Nelson Chamisa which garnered 63 parliamentary seats in the last elections. A Supreme Court ruling declared Chamisa’s leadership of MDC-Alliance illegitimate, leaving Mwonzora’s judicially constructed outfit as the recipient of taxpayer funds.
“We don’t know how the 2022 grant was used and someone simply came with a tablet and started reading figures in one of our meetings saying we did that and that but we are not satisfied because we did not see any trail of papers or receipts to support such expenditures. Our requests for that are being snubbed, that is why we are demanding an audit,” a senior MDC-T standing committee member told The NewsHawks.
Revelations are that the few candidates for parliamentary elections of the MDC-T party ahead of the 26 March by-elections had been promised US$800 each for campaigns, an amount which was reduced to US$400, but still they did not get the money.
Sources said up to now election agents who represented the party at various polling stations are yet to be paid despite the fact that the polls happened barely a month after the government grant had been released into the party’s BancABC account.
There is an unwritten rule in the party agreed upon during the last days of Tsvangirai for the leader of the MDC to get 20% of the money that comes from the government.
The rule, although it is not in the party constitution, was put in place to cushion Tsvangirai since he was neither in Parliament nor gainfully employed. Mwonzora as leader is entitled to that percentage. However, according to Lloyd Damba, Mwonzora’s spokesperson, from the last grant he got 10% and the rest was left for the party. Details gathered by The NewsHawks at Morgan Richard Tsvangira House show that the party vice-president, Ellias Mudzuri, got ZW$5.2 million from the grant while party chairperson Morgan Komichi got ZW$2.9 million.
The late Giles Mutsekwa drew ZW$900 000 from the fund. Damba confirmed the figures that the three got and said the money was for them to convene party meetings. He dismissed reports that Mwonzora abused the greater share of the money as alleged by some party insiders.
“He is not the accounting officer. We have a finance management committee that deals with money issues and Mwoznora is not part of it. So it’s baseless to say he stole the money,” said Damba. Insiders insisted the money was abused. “We do not have exact footprints on the properties that Mwonzora could have bought using the money, but what we saw were extensive renovations at his Mt Pleasant house,” said a source.
There are also concerns in the MDC-T that party vice-president Mudzuri, who was a contender for the presidency at the extra-ordinary congress last year where Mwonzora won, was removed from his role of being in charge of the finance department without explanation. He was reportedly replaced by another official, Chief Ndlovu, who is Mwonzora’s confidante.
However, Damba denied the reports. It is understood the party is now waiting to announce congress dates once it gets another supplementary grant from the government. Investigations by The NewsHawks revealed that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has already signed a Bill for the supplementary political parties’ grants which is expected to be gazetted in the next few weeks, with the MDC-T is tipped to get about ZW$400 million.
Witness Dube, the MDC-T spokesperson, agreed that the finances of the party are not in a sound state at present and said the last government grant was too little to an extent that it could never have been abused.
“The government grant is a drop in an ocean for a political party as big as the MDC to expect it to do wonders. We are always looking at other funding models to meet our requirements, so the question of abuse doesn’t even arise.”
He dismissed reports that there is a call from senior members to account for how the money was spent.
“All our financial reports were affirmed by out last national council,” he said. Turning to the issue of non-payment of 26 March by-election polling agents and candidates, Dube said: “More than half of the polling agents in the party have been paid, and we are looking at completing the list before this year is out. Candidates got $800 plus other material support, which is why we will not attempt to get into the upcoming by-elections while we still are seized with our national congress.”
Fears in the party are that some provinces that include Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Midlands North which are not toeing Mwonzora’s line face dissolution. Staff at Morgan Tsvangirai House which sympathises with Mwonzora and is responsible for compiling the list of congress delegates is also in the firing line.
Inside an MDC-T WhatsApp group titled 5th Congress A1, which features members of Mwonzora’s inner circle, there have been instances of incitement of violence against those who dare oppose the MDC-T leader.
The group includes officials like MP Yvonne Musarurwa, Mwonzora spokesperson Damba, Collen Chanza, Shadreck Dhliwayo, Cheneso Jack and Dube. Spokesperson Dube hinted there will be purges ahead of congress.
“The MDC constitution is clear on membership rights, privileges, responsibilities, and their expected code of conduct. Any deviation from the constitution invokes commensurate disciplinary actions as corrective measures, and that without fear or favour,” he told The NewsHawks.
The rifts within the party were further laid bare after two contradictory statements on the party’s participation in the upcoming by-elections were issued by Dube and Komichi.
Dube came out dismissing claims by Komichi that the party was fielding candidates for the November 2022 by-elections in 10 local authorities. Komichi had told the media last week that the party was fielding candidates in the upcoming by-elections, but the party said it was his personal perspective and not an official position.
In a letter dated 31 October 2022, Dube said: “Reports by an online newspaper (New Zimbabwe.com) of the 31st of October 2022, suggesting that we will be participating in the upcoming by-elections is not the correct party position, but, simply statements to our national chairperson, Morgen Komichi.”
In another incident, Dube again dismissed a statement attributed to Komichi which said countries with asylum seekers from Zimbabwe must know that Zimbabwe is not yet safe for them to come back.
Dube said the statement did not portray the party’s foreign policy of not interfering with internal immigration issues of other countries.